Wide Range of Candidates Prepare to Vie In Algeria's First Multiparty Elections
THERE will be ecologists, women's rights advocates, at least one comedian, sports figures, and representatives of nearly every political hue on the spectrum. When Algerians go to the polls June 27 for the country's first multiparty national vote, they will face a wide range of choices in many districts. Most observers here take the breadth of participation as a sign of hope for democracy.
One danger people foresee, however, is that the enthusiasm could fade fast, especially once the two-round election system reduces the participants to the two top vote-getters for the runoff ballot. Opposition to that system has led some parties, including the Algerian Communist Party, to refuse to participate in the elections.
Yet others see the elections as an opportunity to mount the soapbox for causes that otherwise have difficulty gaining exposure here. Algeria's Greens, for example, will present candidates in seven districts, with the succinct platform of ``highlighting the fundamental role of ecology for the rest of this century.''
Khalida Messaoudi, a well-known Algerian women's activist, is running as an independent and largely on a program for reinforcing women's and individual rights - rights she says have been trampled by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front as well as the ruling National Liberation Front.
Yet while those candidates are out to win, another candidate from one of Algiers's working class neighborhoods says his message is his sole reason for running.
``I want to help people de-dramatize these elections,'' says Ali Allalou, a comedian and radio talk-show host. ``Things are getting too hot, and that could lead to trouble nobody wants.''
In the best tradition of a Pat Paulsen in the United States or a Coluche in France, Mr. Allalou says that if people can laugh a little at these elections, ``it's a good sign that we'll be able to make it to the next.''